If you’re wondering what carbs are good and what are bad, I’ve got you covered. Inside this post, I share the dos and don’ts of carb consumption. The truth is, carbohydrates are not the problem. It’s our problem with food that is generally our problem. That’s why I hate labeling food as good or bad because it’s neither of those things.
Rather I believe it’s only energizing or draining. Allowing you to see beyond the moral code you’ve put on food, which doesn’t matter to your health. Instead, understand how your body reacts to those foods and how it influences your energy.
From here on out, let’s label carbohydrates as energizing or draining. Energizing carbohydrates are the ones that fill you up, keep you satisfied, create pleasure and give you energy. These are natural carbohydrates that are grown from the earth and left in their whole form.
Here is a list of the most energizing carbohydrates:
Negative energy carbohydrates are void of nutrients and take energy to process, throwing off your hormonal patterns and pushing you into a state of survival rather than thriving. The tricky part with these carbohydrates is that they often give you a quick burst of energy but are always followed by a crash because they don’t have any additional substance to regulate the blood sugar inside your body.
Here is the list of the quick and negative carbohydrates.
Carb consumption done the right way
If you throw out the idea that carbohydrates are bad and start to see them as essential, you can let go of the shame and guilt. Remember, food has no moral code, even if it is meant to be enjoyed. Carbohydrates are loaded with nutrients, fiber, enzymes and bring satisfaction to your meals.
Like all things, you can overdo it. The overconsumption of carbs, like all foods, is where we see problems. But if you eat the right amount, not too much and not too little, and from the right sources, they’ll enhance your health.
Here are a few ways dos and don’ts of carb consumption:
01: Don’t rely on only highly processed carbohydrates.
Processed carbs bring little additional nutrient value or fiber to your diet, even if they have added or synthetic fiber. Synthetic ingredients are not the same as natural. Limit processed carbohydrates like chips, crackers, granola bars, and other boxed meals, even if they claim health. Instead, opt for the whole version.
Do stay close to nature.
The healthiest carbohydrates are closest to their natural state, even if you blend or cook them. These natural carbohydrates need no limits, bringing plenty of nutrients and fiber that fill you up and keep you satisfied.
02: Don’t eat carbohydrates alone.
Carbohydrates are the quickest nutrient to be processed in the GI tract and absorbed into the bloodstream. The faster this happens, the higher your glucose spikes and the more stress you induce on your body. The higher the spike, the quicker the crash, leaving you looking for more food very quickly. If you’ve ever consumed a quick bowl of cereal, you know how quickly hunger returns. Carbohydrates by themselves rarely leave you full, at least for long. The more fiber and nutrients the carb contains, the longer you will be satisfied.
Do pair them with healthy fats and protein.
Instead of snacking, always think about creating meals, even if it is for a snack. Adding layers of different foods increases protein and fat intake, which increases satiety. If you want an apple, pair it with nut butter or organic cheese. If you want some oatmeal, add in collagen powder or a handful of nuts and seeds. Think layers of different food groups to make it the most nourishing and satisfying meal.
03: Don’t eat out of season carbohydrates.
There is no limit to what we can consume and what is available at the grocery store—making it challenging to think seasonally. But our body craves seasonal changes as your body changes with the changes in weather and light patterns. To support this and the nutrient needs with the seasonal changes, eat foods that are in season.
Do choose the seasonally options.
Plan your meals around seasonal ingredients, at least the majority of the time. Your body is looking for lighter carbohydrates like leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, and fresh berries in the summer. But as the weather changes, the sun sets earlier, and it gets cooler outside, your body will crave heartier and starchier carbohydrates. Add in more whole grains, winter squash, and potatoes balanced by citrus fruits during the cooler months. Get a full list inside the Nourished Planner.
04: Don’t deprive yourself.
We’ve made carbohydrates scary, fearing that they’re the villain sabotaging our weight. But carbohydrates don’t hold this kind of power, even if we’ve given it to them. Don’t let carbohydrates carry that kind of weight anymore. Instead, change your relationship with carbs learning the right amount for your body by paying attention to your energy level.
Do add carbohydrates for satiety.
Carbohydrates make you happy. In fact, they’re responsible for increasing serotonin production that happens through a healthy gut. The fiber inside carbohydrates is great gut food, and a great gut microbiome produces a great life. That may be a little overstated, but you get the picture. You don’t need too many. A little at every meal can leave you feeling satisfied, allowing you to eat less overall and keep you feeling full longer.
05: Don’t ignore your cravings.
Your cravings may be annoying, but they serve a purpose. Your cravings are a biofeedback marker or communication channel of the body. They are signaling when your body needs energy. And what you do with them matters. Don’t ignore them, but don’t give in to them either. Understand them and provide a healthy option to satisfy them.
Do reward yourself with something non-food-related.
If you’re craving and not biologically needing food, most likely, your body is looking for a reward. A reward is a quick dopamine hit that floods the body with a rush of energy. These rewards come in many different packages, not just food. Food just happens to be an excellent way to get one. Instead, learn alternative ways to reward yourself. Whether it’s a quick compliment to yourself, giving one to someone else, or finishing a small project. Learn how to reward yourself without food, positively fulfilling your cravings.
06: Don’t attach emotional baggage to your food.
Food is not emotional. The act of eating is. Meaning you are the emotional one, not food. Of course, that doesn’t mean food doesn’t bring positive feelings and happy times. But that is because you choose those feelings, not because you’ve given food the power to change how you feel. Take back the power you gave to food. It’s not emotional. You are.
Do enjoy the process of eating carbohydrates.
Food is meant to be enjoyed. The act of eating should be positive. The more positive these two things are, the more control you have to change what you eat while still being satisfied. When you stop looking for food to bring you happiness and learn how to bring that yourself, you don’t need to eat as much. Enjoy food, but don’t give food the power to make you happy. You choose that. Instead, look at food for how it makes you feel physically, not emotionally. Eat what gives you energy and limit what makes you feel bad.
07: Don’t buy the sweetened kinds.
If you have to choose, always sweeten things yourself. That goes for yogurt, oatmeal, and even dairy-free milk. You will always add less than the food company does, and most likely, it will be from a better source. Skip the sweetened or vanilla versions and opt for the plain or original.
Do choose healthier sweeteners.
There are plenty of ways to sweeten foods without adding negative-energy sweeteners. You could add cut fruit or make a quick fruit puree to top on yogurts. Or add a drizzle of honey or maple syrup to your oats. The healthiest sugars are the most natural forms, including honey, maple syrup, sorghum, black-strap molasses, fruits and fruit purees, and coconut sugar.
08: Don’t avoid fruit.
The sugar-detox world has taught us that fruit is to be limited. Certainly, fruit does contain a decent amount of natural sugar. Those sugars are not the same as processed sugar. Meaning they’re processed and broken down differently than the same amount of sugar in a different food substance. Don’t lump all foods as the same. Fruit has impressive nutritional properties that are essential to health.
Do add your favorite fruit to your diet daily.
Like all carbohydrates, make sure you eat it with something else. Skip just munching on an apple between meals or having only a banana for breakfast. Make it last by adding healthy protein and fat. Like all things, mix up what kind of fruit you consume. A variety always adds to your health.
09: Don’t skip flavor or get bored.
Healthy eating should not taste bland. If it is, it’s leaving you longing for something with flavor and making you crave sweet foods. Because sugar is a great flavoring agent. When it’s removed, you’re left with a less-than-satisfying alternative. Reduce your cravings for sweet foods by satisfying your taste buds with bold flavors you enjoy.
Do add lots of spices and herbs and keep things fresh.
Stock up on fresh herbs or dried spices to mix and match in your foods. You can mix cinnamon into your coffee for more flavor or add cinnamon to your yogurt parfait. When you’re heating up your lunch, try sprinkling it with some added basil or fresh cilantro. More flavor always equates to more satiety. Make a conscious effort to add more flavor to everything you make. You will eat less and enjoy it more.
10: Don’t give yourself food rules.
Food rules seem to make health easy. You either do, or you don’t do, allowing you a baseline to track. While I’m not opposed to setting boundaries to keep yourself on track, I hate how food rules put so much attention on food—allowing shame and guilt a seat at the table. Food is not good or bad, right or wrong. It’s only about how it makes you feel.
Do create freedom and flexibility in what you eat.
Food is meant to be enjoyed. It’s meant to nourish your body and give you energy. If it’s doing anything but those things, you’re giving it the power to change what it was never intended to change. Health is more about mindset than your body and creating freedom in health often brings with it everything you were looking for but without the worry and work. More than anything, I want you to enjoy food. To eat with people you love and to eat to fill yourself with energy to get out and live your purpose.
Let carbs be carbs.
Let this be your reminder that it is not inherently healthier to swap cauliflower for rice or lettuce wraps in place of tortillas or chia seeds in place of oatmeal. Health is so much more than the food we eat because we eat many foods for different reasons.
The only rule I can give you is to eat carbs.
Not too many, not too little, and in addition to other healthy ingredients.
Enjoy the carb. Just don’t suffer over it.
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